Center for National and International Studies
“The government, which is interested in attracting tourists and investment to the country, would establish a normal judicial, health, and police system in the country.”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Liberties
The Muslim Union Movement has appealed to human rights organizations, NGOs, and theologians, as well as a number of political and public figures, regarding the hunger strike of the members of the movement in prison. The appeal says: “While this situation has reached this point, it is necessary to address you as the leading figures of the society. We offer you a polemic to resolve this issue, taking into account the terrible news of every minute. At present, the vital conditions of the people who are fighting for their lives are on the verge of bitter news that will upset everyone. Being late for even a moment can cause us to lose them. For years, everyone has known that these people fighting for the truth are irreversible and persistent in their goals. Since the subject of faith is above all matters for these people, there is no doubt that courageous men will persevere in this matter to the last breath. That is why we consider it necessary to sit at a table with you in unity and discussion to find a way out of the current situation.”
Tale Bagirzadeh, the leader of the Muslim Union Movement, has been on hunger strike in Gobustan Prison for seven days. Other members of the movement and believers joined the strike as a sign of solidarity.
LGBTQ activists held a press conference on June 9 to mark the month of pride. For the first time in recent years, activists with open identities spoke at a press conference about discrimination, physical and psychological violence, and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.
Ilham Aslanoglu, an investigator of Tartar crimes, was arrested and not allowed to attend his son’s wedding, and police raided the wedding. Lawyer Ilham Aslanoglu, who played a significant role in the investigation and publicization of Tartar crimes against the members of the army, was re-arrested a day before his son’s wedding. According to the witnesses, the police stormed the wedding hall where her son’s wedding was held and prevented the wedding from taking place. After strong protests from the guests, the police left the palace, and the wedding took place.
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli condemned the arrest and said that Aslanoglu spoke on behalf of hundreds of victims of the Tartar massacre in public and rendered exceptional service in revealing this terrible crime to the public. Karimli said that the illegal arrest of Aslanoglu was a deliberate act to cover up what really happened in Tartar. Karimli wrote: “What happened to Ilham Aslanoglu now inevitably reminds of what happened to Oktay Gulaliyev. Oktay Gulaliyev, a member of the Coordination Center of the National Council, was the first to uncover the crimes of Tartar. The Azerbaijani public first heard the terrible truth about Tartar and the torture crimes committed at that time from Oktay Bey. Later, Oktay Bey was summoned to both the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office, threatened and warned. You also know the tragedies that Oktay Bey experienced later. Mysterious car accident, untimely operation and as a result, he has been in a coma for two and a half years.”
Governance, Transparency and Corruption
Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that despite rising oil revenues, the Azerbaijani people are getting poorer. Ibadoghlu wrote: “Azerbaijan’s oil revenues of the State Oil Fund for five months of this year amounted to 3 billion 828 million US dollars. This is an increase of more than two times compared to the same period last year. As for gas revenues, gas revenues increased 8.5 times over the same period. Thus, in the first five months of this year, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas revenues together amounted to 4 billion 354 million 537 thousand dollars. When you convert these funds into manat at the current rate and divide them by five months, it is 1.5 billion manats per month. This is not only the Oil Fund’s profit but also the state oil company and foreign oil and gas companies, as well as the budget from the taxes they pay for the increase in oil profit due to rising oil prices. In return, the population is getting poorer, as the recent rapid rise in prices has increased their costs. However, the Azerbaijani government, as always, misappropriates the profits and puts an extra burden on the people by increasing the prices. This policy has been going on for years. Even if it continues, gasoline prices will be reconsidered in the near future, and then the fare will increase.”
Member of NCDF Gultekin Hajibeyli also pointed out the increasing prices and cost of living crisis in Azerbaijan. Hajibeyli wrote: “The average salary in Belgium is 3,700 euros or about 7,000 manats. Out of 5 million citizens in Azerbaijan, only 1.2 million work permanently. In other words, 76% of the population who can work is deprived of permanent jobs. The vast majority of the remaining 24%, the “lucky ones,” earn around 300-500 manats per month. Belgium has moved to a four-day working week since last year, and many European countries are taking steps in this direction. Our compatriots, who earn 300-500 manats per month, have to work literally as slaves for 10 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to take care of their children. However, both Europeans, who earn 7,000 manats a month, and Azerbaijanis, who earn a living wage of 300-500 manats, buy food at the same price, and many food products are cheaper in Europe. No need to mention the quality of the products.”
Journalist Ayten Mammadova reports that an official of the Presidential Administration sent 100,000 manats to the investigator of the Main Department for Combating Organized Crime. According to Mammadova, the reason was that the head of the sector was mentioned in a criminal case, and his son-in-law was arrested on fraud charges. The victims, including Turkish citizens, also demanded the arrest of a PA official or the return of $ 2 million. The head of the sector was questioned as a witness. He paid 100,000 manats to avoid criminal charges.
Answering a question about the village of Farrukh during his visit to Armenia, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the situation in Karabakh will be considered in the context of the delimitation of the borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the activities of the delimitation commissions established by Azerbaijan and Armenia are aimed at delimitation of the state border of the two countries, as previously planned and it is not planned to consider the issue of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily located. However, Lavrov’s statement caused outrage, and the opposition called Lavrov’s response a clear challenge to Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and reflections on the position of the separatists in Karabagh. Member of APFP Fuad Gahramanli said that Lavrov‘s statement is also aimed at putting pressure on Azerbaijan because on the eve of Hikmet Hajiyev‘s visit to Washington, Azerbaijan, as a gesture to the United States, blocked RIA Novosti TV channel. According to Gahramanli, at the time of the dialogue between Azerbaijan and the United States, Russia is expressing its concern in this way by sending a clear message that it can openly support the separatists in Karabakh. The Chairperson of ADWP Gubad Ibadoghlu said that the Azerbaijani society should also protest Lavrov‘s statement, which does not fit into any legal norm. According to Ibadoghlu, “those who support the Kremlin must once again understand that Russia is not an ally, has never been and cannot be and therefore, both the declaration of alliance with Russia and its mediation must be abandoned.” Ibadoghlu added that, the Azerbaijani government must inform the public about the meetings and talks of the expert groups on the delimitation of the borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia otherwise, the people who do not know about the closed-door talks will later regret it, as they did on November 10.”
About 30,000 final-year undergraduate students in Azerbaijan must pass a state exam in order to be awarded the degree. However, students who had to study online for the last five semesters due to the pandemic are dissatisfied with the fact that universities will test them according to the full on-campus program. The vast majority of students have already failed the first exam. Because during the period of online education, the study programs were not sufficient, their implementation was very ineffective, and part of the semester coincided with the Second Karabakh War when the internet was limited for about two months. According to the students, the final state attestation should be replaced by the General Average Success Index instead of the standard state exam.
Formula 1 races were held in Baku on June 10-12. A 10-year contract was signed in 2016 to hold the race in Baku. Its five years are mandatory, and the next five years can be suspended at the discretion of Azerbaijan. According to journalist Habib Muntezir, the Azerbaijani government paid 34 million manats in the first year for this competition, and every year this amount increases by 10 percent. From next year, the Azerbaijani government can cancel the race if it wishes, but it must pay a fine. If the government decided to hold the race in Baku for another five years, Azerbaijan would spend a total of more than 1 billion manats. Despite the government’s attempts to present the international sports game as an opportunity to boost the country’s image, the opposition and the activists criticized the government both for misappropriating public funds and limiting the mobility of the city residents. One of the controversial decisions the government made during the Formula 1 was allowing the Georgian citizens who present a ticket for the F1 race to cross Azerbaijan by land, which has been closed since the beginning of COVID lockdowns two years ago. Exiled journalist Afgan Mukhtarli said that the reason why the government still keeps the land borders closed is that the regime is planning to create a closed society. Muktrarli wrote: “I wrote once, and I will write again. Keeping land borders closed is a serious matter. It is not just a matter of making more money through AZAL and improving domestic tourism. It is a political issue. They are turning the country into Turkmenistan. They deprive the people of the most primitive right – the right to freedom of movement. Political parties, public organizations, and political and public activists should discuss the issue of keeping the borders closed more frequently. It is necessary to protest against it.”
Chairperson of APFP Ali Karimli also criticized the Aliyev government for using the Formula 1 race as a pretext to boost tourism. Karimli wrote: “Why should there be an influx of tourists to such an expensive city as Baku? If the Aliyev government really wanted to attract tourists to the country, it would not make Baku such an expensive city. The government that wants to attract tourists would not require visas from tourists from Europe and other developed countries. A government that wants to organize the flow of tourists to its country would not keep its land borders closed and would not turn a blind eye to the monopoly of AZAL, which sells air tickets for 3-5 times more expensive. The government, which is interested in attracting tourists and investment to the country, would establish a normal judicial, health, and police system in the country. It would not present the country as a state where rights are violated at every step, where there is no free press, no courts, and where torture and police violence are a daily occurrence.
Aliyev’s government is doing everything possible to prevent tourists from coming to Azerbaijan. Then, every summer, Baku residents’ movements are restricted for at least ten days and placed under house arrest for the Formula 1 race. Supposedly, they will develop tourism. And as a result, the government spends 100 million manats, the comfort of Baku residents is disturbed, and tourists do not come.”
June 14, 2022